Chapter 1: The Early Threads
As I noted in the prologue blog, I have always been interested in creativity. In this chapter, I focus on the needle arts side of my creativity. I used to sew clothes for my dolls and stuffed animals (see above for Lucy the elephant, still with me nearly 50 years later and in the same dress). I remember sewing the first dress for myself for my 7th grade class photo (see above). Thankfully, Mum did the zipper (this was in 1970; I sewed my first zipper in 2012!). Mum encouraged me to do the zipper and finish the dress, but I was too afraid that I would mess things up and ruin the dress. I certainly felt more at ease sewing the headband than the dress.
In my teens, I switched to embroidery, adding beautiful designs to bags, tea towels and pillow cases. In college, I stitched patches on people’s jeans as a way to make extra money.
Around 1979, I created my first quilt (see above), along with a matching pillow case. I remember buying a bag of pre-cut squares of fabric (mostly cotton/polyester blends) and learning how to piece them together, add backing, complete the sewing and use yarn to “tack” all of the pieces together. That quilt, like many vintage quilts, still provides warmth today and is still all together.
I sewed my next quilt while working on my doctorate degree, a king-sized strip quilt for my parents. I also made a quilt for myself those days and would go on to make two wedding quilts for friends and family. I have also sewn many baby quilts over the decades.
No one would call any of these creations art. Indeed, for many years, my inner critic would regularly point out to me that I was not an artist and did not produce art. If one were to Google the argument, they would find a lot of discussion on the differences between arts and crafts. Crafts are at times viewed as useful objects while art is at times viewed as nonfunctional objects (i.e., it can look nice, but should not have an actual purpose). One of my art instructors strongly believed that art should not be functional and was very critical of most of what I chose to create.
It was uplifting to me during my pilgrimage to Wales in 2011 to come across a sign at St. David’s Cathedral that was giving directions to the Arts and Crafts store. Underneath the English words was the Welsh translation: Celf and Chrefft. I resonate with the idea that art could be the work of the self (my interpretation of Celf) and that I should spend far less time engaged in an academic discussion of how others wish to evaluate my work and far more time engaged in creative pursuits that come from my very core.
For my 50th birthday, I received a package of items from my parents, items they had collected throughout my childhood. This included many hand-made cards for members of my family. They may not be Picassos or Van Goghs, but each one of them was made with love and a great deal of time and effort. How thoughtful of my parents to put them aside and send them along later. What a gift to me to be reminded of the willingness of a child to express herself with art supplies, with paper and glue and crayons, to tell someone how she feels about them or how she feels about the world around her.
Nowadays, I create by spinning from my gut what most moves me in the world. When what I create resonates with another human being, the thread that connects each and every one of us becomes more apparent, more alive. While I will always struggle with my inner critic and with those who find my functional creations to be left wanting, I more fully embrace the fact that my creativity is an essential part of who I am, a part that I have been expressing all my life.
Stay tuned for the next chapter: creativity and words.